Civil War Battle Plans

've been watching the history channel's Civil War battle reenactments. They are incredibly interesting. They reinforce an opinion I formed many years ago about the mentality of those times. Namely, that the true goal of the Civil War was not any noble ideal. Freeing the slaves and preserving the Union or the Confederacy was just the "football". The true game was the ...

Exercise of 19th century ... "Machismo"

I say so because of the following fact.

Most of the combat deaths and horrific injuries of the civil war can be attributed to frontal assaults on fortified positions. That is, these weren't "battles" in the true meaning of the term. They weren't fights among equal combatants. They were simply a means of slaughtering (or maiming) perhaps 90% of the men making the charge. Thus, if you were in the charge, you had a small chance of escaping unscathed which increased the measure of your "bravery" versus all other men (presuming that you survived the scuffle).

Thereafter, you could march down main street and no one could call you a coward whilst at the same time you could secretly look down your nose at "those others who didn't fight for the cause".

Why can I be assured of the truth of this interpretation?

Because they made no attempt whatsoever to protect themselves from being killed (much the same as the people on the Titanic made no attempt to save themselves from drowning ... which most surely would have succeeded).

Cold Harbor - Here over ten thousand union soldiers were killed or wounded in a matter of half an hour by walking up to the Confederate dug-in positions and shooting it out face to face. The Rebs simply blew them away at point blank range. It was not a battle ... it was a form of target practice for the Confederate soldiers. Imagine ... you shoot your piece ... then ... while standing in the open ten yards from the Confederate line you reload your weapon in perhaps 30 seconds ... then take aim and fire a ball into the earth or logs of the breastworks ... then ... load again and then ... you're shot in the head. How courageous! Perhaps the Union officers hoped to win the war by running the rebels out of ammo? At one soldier per reb bullet ... hmmmm ... how many bullets did they have? It was ridiculous. If a man did the intelligent thing and ran or refused to jump into the meat grinder ... well ... he's a coward ... see?

Well, what could they have done?

Let's take Picket's charge for instance. What could they have done differently? Well, they could have gone at night. That would have given them equality with the Union army. Both would have been equally confused and disoriented. But they would have easily made it to ... and over ... the Union fortifications ... and ... perhaps have won the battle. One can pick apart anyone's tactics after the fact though.

So, let's terminate the point by inventing a mechanical contraption which would have saved about two hundred thousand lives ... maybe 1,000,000 by shortening the war.

Here, you remove the cannon and install an iron plate (with shoot holes) on the carriage. Extend the rear so that a dozen soldiers can hold on and push over reasonably level ground. Alternatively, one could use wood or logs in place of the iron plate. By using readily available materials this thing could be made very quickly. It would have afforded reasonable cover while moving to the front, i.e. it wouldn't have been a simple suicide. Put a half dozen or so side by side and you have a mobil fortification which can be advanced at a trot because it is comparatively light (per man pushing ... you only need about a quarter inch plate to stop a "ball" and some wheels to roll it with). And ... when the works are breached the entire regiment can flood in through the hole.

In fact, with a little extra rigging, one could use it to "ramp" over the enemy works. And of course, you would use it after the battle to transport the dead and injured. Just attach the plate flat.
Since something like this was never done at Cold Harbor, Gettysburg, Antietam, etc. ... one must suppose that the participants were in fact suicidal? ... no ... just out to strut their stuff. Obviously, no one, even in the 19th century, could be that stupid. All generals and all enlisted men knew that what they were doing represented a total disregard for their own lives (and their families). They chose to do it anyway ... but it wasn't at all noble. I reserve that description for those who fall in battle when all rational options are exhausted and nothing remains but to fight to the last man (the Warsaw Ghetto) ... or ... when battle is engaged on reasonably equal terms. This was very often not the case in the American civil war.

Apparently, the lessons of the civil war weren't learned till the 2nd World War since the soldiers in WWWI were required to charge the trenches under suicidal machine gun fire.

Over the top !

Ebtx Home Page